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Edirect, Naviant Deal Boasts 60M Names

Opt-in e-mail firm eDirect.com and database concern Naviant Marketing Solutions merger will result in a database of 60 million e-mail names with postal addresses attached, company executives said.

Under the deal, the terms of which were not disclosed, Naviant will be absorbed into eDirect.com. The new firm probably will be named Naviant, however, said Scott Hirsch, chief operating officer of eDirect.com, Boca Raton, FL.

“It really is a strong name in the marketplace,” he said.

Naviant handles hi-tech product registrations for companies like Hewlett-Packard. Since the registrations are done online, Naviant's database includes e-mail addresses and corresponding postal addresses, a combination that allows marketers to know better who they are reaching.

EDirect.com gathers e-mail names and physical addresses mainly from sweepstakes and contest participants on a network of Web sites. It also collects self-reported interests during registration.

“We're going to take these two sources of data and merge them,” Hirsch said. “The combined entity will have more than 60 million e-mail names. Our goal is to be the largest single source of opt-in names.”

Both firms offer e-mail appending, or matching a direct mailer's house file to the service provider's file to match e-mail addresses to the mailer's postal addresses. Matches are said to be from 5 percent to 10 percent, depending on the quality of the file.

Though the practice is controversial, more marketers are considering e-mail appending lately because anthrax scares have them seeking alternatives to direct mail should the need arise. Appending has also long been viewed as a cure to one of e-mail marketing's main weaknesses: the lack of postal information attached to the addresses.

Privacy advocates, however, say appending is spam. E-mailing anyone who has not given explicit permission to reach them via the medium is unacceptable, they claim.

But many marketers believe that since there is a pre-existing relationship, the contact shouldn't be considered spam.

Al DiGuido, CEO of e-mail service provider Bigfoot Interactive, New York, said marketers can append without being labeled a spammer if they are careful.

“You got to be certain that you've got the right person,” he said. For example, he said, the would-be appender shouldn't send e-mail to, say, someone with the same name who lives across the street from the actual customer.

When Bigfoot appends for clients, DiGuido said, it sends an e-mail explaining the reason for the contact and asking permission for the client to contact the customer via e-mail again. If the person doesn't respond, then permission hasn't been given, and the customer is left alone, he said, adding that “we've had very low opt-out rates.”

Still, privacy advocates contend that the existence of an offline relationship with a customer is meaningless and that without opt-in permission to contact a customer via e-mail, any e-mail sent to an appended e-mail address is spam.

It is unclear how much of the new Naviant's business is expected to come from list rental and how much from appending.

Meanwhile, eDirect.com's purchase of Naviant, announced at the Direct Marketing Association's 84th Annual Conference & Exhibition in Chicago last week, left some wondering where this relative upstart's capital was coming from.

EDirect.com is apparently owned all or in part by another database concern in Boca Raton called Seisint Inc., formerly known as eData.com. Leon Brauser, reportedly eDirect.com president Michael Brauser's father, sits on Seisint's board.

There is also a pretty solid Accenture connection, the extent of which is unclear. Seisint lists management and technology consulting firm Accenture as a partner on its Web site at Seisint.com. Seisint's CEO and its chief marketing officer are both former long-time Accenture executives.

Multiple attempts to get a clearer picture were unsuccessful after an eDirect.com executive missed an appointment for a follow-up interview. Also, calls to two Seisint executives were not returned.

In other news related to the deal, Naviant will close its Boston, Philadelphia and Atlanta offices and consolidate them into a New York sales office. Naviant founder Charles Stryker will stay on as chairman of the combined entity. Naviant's vice president of sales, Tom Hickey, will stay on as senior vice president of sales in New York City. Ray Butkus will assume a consulting role. The new company's headquarters will be in Boca Raton.

The deal is expected to close in about six weeks. EDirect is also looking to make other acquisitions, Hirsch said.

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